But I can’t live here anymore.
When I first moved back to Chicago after business school (ahem, Wharton), I was the most ardent evangelist for all this city had to offer. I scoffed when people asked if I would live anywhere else. Why would I ever leave Chicago? It’s livable! Manageable! Inexpensive!
It’s none of that anymore.
I’ve watched over the years as my property taxes have gone up to ridiculous levels (no, I can’t afford $9,500 a year, which would be more if I didn’t contest it every time), my water/sewer bill has shot up just this year from $700/yr to $1100/yr, we pay the highest sales tax in the country, the highest gas taxes – and yet we have the crappiest roads and the most broke state in the nation.
This is not my Chicago, not anymore. Not when I can’t use a simple quarter to park anywhere anymore, where we’ve been sold down the river by our former idiot mayor who just kept kicking the can down the road as he doled out hefty pensions and cushy deals to keep the peace. And now the bill is coming due. Yet, no one – or very few – seem to realize this. They don’t seem to get that this state is beyond broke, that we pay all this money yet the schools are no good, the streets are terrible, and things will get worse. Much, much worse. The pension crisis is coming to a head, and it will not be pretty. In fact, it’ll reach new depths of ugly that’ll make the Council Wars of old look like a Sunday in the park. We read in the papers daily about the cronyism and corruption and deals, and yet nothing ever changes. And everything is for sale to not even the highest bidder (hello, former Sears Tower!), but to those who have the most friends and family in high places. Or any place in government or politics, for that matter. It all reeks to high heaven.
And do people here really realize just how badly off the state is in terms of fiscal health?
Does anyone care?
I don’t know anymore. I know that I do, and have, and yet there are only so many letters that can be written, so many idiots voted against, so much yelling and ranting that one can do. And so I am finally leaving my once beloved Chicago. On some level it saddens me to be leaving, but then I always remind myself of the bottom line: I can’t afford to live here anymore.
That’s really what it comes down to.
That’s why my street, my little enclave of St. Ben’s, is becoming a haven for the rich, with almost every 2-flat being turned into an opulent single-family home.
That’s why those of us who can are leaving while we can, while there are still rich people who want to buy our houses, who can afford those insane property taxes.
That’s why early tomorrow morning I am leaving for a new life in Portland. My mom, who’s gotten on a mailing list for property in Portland, recently sent me an article about that city, where Portland was described as “livable, manageable, affordable.”
And I thought huh – it’s like I’m going back to Chicago. My Chicago of old.
And then when a dear friend told me that it was the end of an era, I thought huh, you know, it wasn’t all that great of an era.
I am hitting the reset button on my life.
A grand adventure awaits.
And Chicago will always, always have a place in my heart.